Posted on February 20, 2017
It is hard to describe the past two weeks. They have simultaneously flown by and inched along. I have felt well, on top of things, and motivated to get things accomplished. Contradictorily, I have felt ill, tired, and like I just want to sit in bed all day long binge watching Netflix. My brain says, “You’ve got this Holly. It will be over before you know it. Think of how much glory this trial will bring to God, and how much stronger it will make your faith. What is one month without your husband? God is your strength, not Matt. God will get you through. Just keep taking it one day at a time.” Then my heart stays silent, trying to respect the brain. Uncontrollably, my heart's actions speak out of turn. A series of stress responses sneak over me. I feel my stomach turning, the back of my neck gets hot, my hairs stand up, my heart races. A quick prayer temporarily relieves the symptoms. Then I get frustrated with myself. Why is my body doing this to me? I trust in my God. I am not afraid. I am not anxious. I am not upset. Now I am sick, I have boils recurring on my body. I have a fever, I feel achey. I think of Job’s trials, I can only imagine how he felt. Again I ask, why is my body doing this to me?
I think back through the past year. Adoption is not easy. That is what so many adoptive parents frequently share. We went through the beginning stages wondering why everyone made such a fuss about it. Looking back, I see the difficulty that I easily overlooked in the moment. An incredible amount of stress came with getting the house ready, reading five books worth of forms that you have to then accurately fill out and sign. Then the stress that comes with finding time to and taking classes, getting the house ready, being interrogated, having your child questioned social services, and going into federal offices to be checked out (biometrics scans). Nerves are tightened when literally your entire family is under the microscope. Even though we have nothing to hide! Then there’s the fundraising because you know you do not have what it costs to accomplish the next step. Trusting God’s provision we strategically had to navigate the act of asking for help over and over again without seeming needy or lazy. Throughout the year we juggled the need to file all the forms on time, making sure to not forget any and to make multiple copies of each. Then we realized we did forget one and we had to scramble to file it before we left. Keeping up with your normal workload while doing all this is enough stress. But that is just the work involved. Throughout all the work related stress; we dealt with the emotional stress that comes from longing for children we’ve never met, introducing our son to the concept of being a big brother, knowing our adoption could fall through for many reasons, and knowing that our future children are barely cared for. I’ll never forget how cried in Aldis when I received the phone call from our agency about our November 24th court date. It was perfect timing. But more stress followed. Work stress of wrapping up wedding season, leaving no loose ends before the trip. That meant I worked 10 times harder. Physical stress came into full swing because I hardly slept the entire month before we came to Africa. And emotional stress came from the travel prep, the flight, and prepping for the first time meeting our girls. Two weeks after relieving the stress of our future children being in someone else’s care, we learned about and decided to adopt the babies. That train just started right back up again without any warning. These were joyous and exciting times, but that does not neutralize the fact that it has all been incredibly stressful. There is no need to feel guilty for being stressed. This is not anxiety. It is not a lack of trust. It is simply stress. Prolonged, hardcore stress that is beginning to show the toll it has been taking on my body. That is why my body is doing this to me. A solid year of continuous slightly above average stress. I took anatomy and physiology in college. Over the past two weeks I couldn’t help but I remember the instructor teaching us what stress does to your body.
Nevertheless, I see much beauty in my situation. The past year really did fly. God walked us through a myriad of doors. At any given time throughout 2016, if one would have asked if I was stressed I would have answered, “No, not at all" (with the exception of the month before we left for Africa). "This adoption has gone really smoothly. And it really isn’t as hard as you would think.” I said exactly that to more than one person last year. “Wow, you’re brave.” One responded. I didn’t see it. I am just walking through one door at a time. I am not even opening the door or directing myself to the door. That’s not bravery, it's just walking. Now, my survival is owing to God carrying me through. I can’t even take credit for walking now. He comforts me in his arms through this scary storm. He won’t let me go until I have the strength to stand on my own again.
Truth be told, we are fighting a battle in the name of Jesus Christ for the lives of these sweet children. Battles take skill, tools, armor, strength, endurance, and a leader.He is our leader. He inspires us and freely gives us these tools, especially the strength and endurance to push through a long battle. It is demanding and painful, but God is here fighting beside us. He will not forsake us, ensuring victory.
Shortly after Matt left, a new battle arose. On February 5th, it was time to call the embassy about delivering our I-600 application. All day, on February 4th, I refreshed my memory of the process that we needed to go through. In my research I saw a new alert."On January 1, 2017 the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) will enter into force for this country. However, please be advised that the Department of State has determined that it will not be able to issue Hague Adoption Certificates for adoptions from this country that are initiated on or after January 1, 2017 under the Convention because this country’s implementing legislation, the Children’s Bill of 2016, has not yet been signed into law, and a Central Authority has not been established...In the meantime, we are confirming with this countries' officials whether this country will permit cases in which a U.S. citizen filed a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, or a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an immediate relative, prior to January 1 to continue under the non-Hague adoption process.”
My stress responses flared up, again. "Does this mean they are not going to accept our i-600? Maybe I am reading into this too much.” I thought to myself. Next, I reached out via email to various offices and agencies in the U.S. to help shed light on the situation. They either reiterated the alert or simply told me they did not know. Our facilitator was unreachable. Monday came. I called the embassy, “Hello I would like to talk with someone about the petition i-600 that I need to file.” In a quick response I heard, “What is the I-600?” Why am I surprised.. Really? She didn’t know. My answer was word for word the definition of the i-600, which I unintentionally memorized. She transferred me. Then that lady transferred me. Then I was given some answers. Yes, my fears were right. She explained the embassy may or may not accept my application for the i-600 petition. Thankfully, they will have their answer for me by "mid-February". She took down my information, and reassured that she would call if any news arose. A day later she called, “What is the date on your social welfare report for the girls?” "January 17th, 2017.” I replied nervously. “But our original court date was supposed to be in November, 2016.” I desperately pleaded hoping it would make a difference in our case. I shared with her how long we’ve been here, how many delays we’ve faced, and how my husband had to go back to work. I tried to pull on her momma heart strings. “When I called the kids in to FaceTime with daddy they thought I said we were leaving to go be with daddy. After straightening out the misunderstanding, they cried and were sad for the rest of the day.” Who knows if that actually made an impact on her. Two days later she called back. “We would like you to come in for an interview on Wednesday next week with every document you have regarding this adoption.” How exciting, and nerve wracking.
The entire day before this interview, I spent at the passport office with the kids. Our facilitator has a contact there who was helping us, we followed him. We did as he said. We waited for officials to meet with us, question us, and sign the girls’ papers. Then we waited to be called in for the biometrics and photos. Then we waited more. Then we ran errands. It was a long yet necessary day. Within the next two weeks we should have the passports. It was now Wednesday, the interview day. I connected to Joy’s offer and let the kids stay at the guest house. This all day outing would be just me. Taxi ride there, waiting in the round about with all the others who had appointments, then being assured through security to finally get to wait in the air conditioned building.
I was the first in the interview room. “Please let me see your appointment letter.” the woman on the other side of the glass asked. I firmly confidently responded, “I don’t have one. I was called and told to come on this day at this time with all the adoption papers I have in order to discuss the i-600 application I wish to file.” She responded to me with a notion of inexperience, “Ok, then. Can I see all the documents.” I asked her which ones she wanted since I have folders upon folders of them, some of which likely wouldn’t pertain to the i-600. But I’m not the one who worked in the embassy so how would I really know what would pertain? “Give me whatever you think we would need.” I rummaged through my folders taking a few papers from here and a couple documents from there. She told me to go back out to the reception area and wait while they review it all. Hours went by. I prayed God would ease my stress symptoms, that he would help me be calm and knowledgeable. I actively worked towards relieving tension. I uncrossed my arms, took a deep breath, and relaxed my jittery leg. A continued prayer pleaded that God would help me ask the right questions, answer their questions well, and that they would accept the i-600 application. They called me back in. She questioned me, “Do you have any photos?” Me, “Yes, here you go.” She continued, “Where is their father? Why did their mother give them up? Where are the children now? What orphanage were they in? How did you find out about them? How did your agency find out about them? Do you have any documentation regarding their orphanage stay?” I’m sure there’s a few questions I’m forgetting. I honestly barely know the answers to half those questions. Most of it was “classified” until the court hearing. Then in the hearing we only heard a brief dictation of the story. She walked out of the enclosure on the other side of the interview room’s glass divider for a few minutes. When she returned she said, "You may go ahead and fill out the applications for the girls." I slowly and meticulously completed them, referencing all the answers in the numerous documents before me. Then I handed them to the interviewer. “Does this mean you are accepting the i-600 application?” I asked. She answered as if it was an automatic response, “You have to wait to find out.” I left her with many copies of important documents and the i-600 applications. What just happened?
When I got back to the guest house I called our facilitator to tell him about the interview. He said, “if they took documents and the i-600 application from you, that means they accepted your application.” What a relief it was to hear that, although I still didn’t completely believe his statement. A few days later I received an email from the office. “We have accepted your i-600 application and are in the process of verifying all the documents regarding your case. We wish to interview the birth mother and have set an appointment for Thursday, next week. Please contact your facilitator to arrange this meeting with the birth mother.” Okay, now I believe it! What a weight lifted off my chest. I forwarded the emial to the facilitator then texted him to make sure he received it. He responded, "Everything is set up for the interview. This is very normal. And they usually approve the i-600 shortly after interviewing the surviving parent.” another big mountain was just moved through prayer.
Next, I inquired about the babies. Our facilitator has been back and forth from their village multiple times this month. As of last Tuesday, all necessary family members signed the papers to relinquish their rights to the babies. This was a moment that has been months in the making and on the edge of not happening at all. Now that it is done, the social welfare department needs to do their official investigation on the babies situation and their history. As soon as this is completed, our facilitator will pick up the babies and bring them to the guest house for me. Wow, are things moving now. Our facilitator’s hope is that the court hearing for us to adopt the babies will happen within a week of the custody transfer. This sounds ambitious to my weary heart, but I’ll pray for the speed regardless.
On the day Matt left, we discussed our current situation including: What needs to be accomplished in order for me to come home with the kids? The girls need their passports, an approved i-600, their medicals, and a visa. The babies need reports filed, a court date scheduled, a court date to actually take place, the adoption decree, their passports, an approved i-600, their medicals, and a visa. What was inducing the most stress? I expressed how not having a clear timeline or date to look forward to is what makes this the most difficult for me. It could be weeks, it could be months. We don’t know. If we keep waiting for things to get done with the babies, then I could be stuck here for an indefinite amount of time. What are our options? Here is what we came up with:
Option one: Wait for everything with both the girls and the babies to be completed. Then come home with all five children. This timeframe is the most indefinite. We haven’t even adopted the babies yet. It took two months here before we were able to adopt the girls. Given that potential, stress will be high.
Option two: Complete the girls’ case as soon as possible. Get home before this experience becomes traumatic to Matthew. Continue working on the babies’ case, take custody of them, and care for them. Then when it is time that the girls’ case is completed and they are allowed to go to the U.S., Matthew, Adah, Ayana, and I will fly home. I will put the babies in the care of someone in this country that I now know and trust. We will pay them child support. And our facilitator will complete their process in our absence. Whenever the day comes that the babies’ case is finished, I will fly back by myself for a few days to pick them up and bring them home.
We decided on option two. It makes the most sense. Every major adjustment effects children at any age, but we have peace that the babies are young enough to go through this transition without negative effects on their ability to trust and bond with Matt and I. Quite honestly, I think this option will help me properly bond with the babies. Preventing me from associating our first months together as one of the most stressful times in my life. The kids and I will get to meet them and care for them for a few weeks while we prepare for returning home to daddy. It will be hard to say goodbye to them, but better than not getting to meet them at all. If timing works out where we are able to have the i-600’s for the babies approved within the week before we can take the girls home, then Matt and I will consider me and the kids staying until the babies can come with us. God is powerful and can make this happen if it is His will. I have peace with either outcome.
To wrap it all up:
- I need prayer for continued strength in this last stretch of our battle. My body’s ability to handle this level of long term stress is growing weaker.
- Everything for the girls could very likely be completed within the next three weeks. Meaning, I would be returning home with all three six year olds. Pray specifically: That the embassy's interview with the birth mother this Thursday is a success. For the I-600 approvals to come through within the next week. That the passports are completed this week. That the girls’ medicals check out ok. And that the Visa’s for the girls can be finished in a weeks time.
- The babies case is still progressing. Their health is stable. We may have them in our care this week. When I leave with the six year olds, the babies will likely have to stay in this country in the care of one of our new friends. Pray specifically: For continued improvement in their health. That the adoption court hearing happens within the week. That the time I have with them will be as easy as caring for twin one year olds can be. That they sleep well. That healing and bonding happens quickly. And that God can move the rest of their case with lightening speed. If it’s not His will for them to come home with me and the older kids, then I need prayer for wisdom and guidance with who to ask to help care for the babies. And how to ask them to take on this burden with an unknown end.
- Currently, we do not have the money we need to buy 4 return tickets to America or to purchase an 8 passenger vehicle. The tickets are a necessity, we know God will provide. I have no stress over this issue. As for the vehicle, it would be nice, but we could make due driving two cars everywhere until we save the money to purchase something bigger. Just keep us in your prayers. Don’t feel obligated to donate unless God is pressing it upon your heart. And just keep us posted if you know of anyone selling a reliable 8 passenger vehicle for a good price.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. With all my sincerity I pray God blesses you.